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Bong Go dedicates ‘Superman’ song to Duterte at Malacañang Christmas party

CROONER. Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, with supportive Malacañang staff dancing in the background, sings during the Malacañang Press Corps Christmas party. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler 

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MANILA, Philippines – For one night, Malacañang officials, led by none other than President Rodrigo Duterte, and members of the media exchanged controversy for crooning as they celebrated the holiday season with a Christmas party.

At the Malacañang Press Corps party, held at the Heroes' Hall in Malacañang on Tuesday night, December 12, it wasn’t only Duterte who sang but Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, and Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.


Reporters and even Malacañang staff were surprised that the usually poker-faced Go turned out to be the official who would sing the most number of songs that night – 5.

Go, who made sure to sip some liquid courage (red wine) first, belted out tunes, like classic love song “All My Life” by America, “Let It Be” by The Beatles, and “Superman” by Five for Fighting which he dedicated to his “boss.”

“It’s not easy…to be Mayor Duterte,” sang Go, changing the last line of the Five for Fighting hit.

As he sang, Go even had back-up dancers in the form of Malacañang staff swaying their arms and hips behind him.

After his “segment” Go gamely shook hands with reporters who congratulated him on his performance. By the time he was back in his seat at the presidential table, the top Duterte aide was red in the face and neck, his body’s reaction to alcohol.

Duterte, who, earlier during the party had begged off from singing because of a “bad stomach” ended up singing a few songs of his own. Was he perhaps inspired by his aide?

The President treated his audience with his rendition of “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban, a refreshing change to his usual number, “Ikaw". As his aide dedicated a song to him, so Duterte dedicated his performance to his late mother Soledad Roa Duterte.

But, at one point, Duterte appeared to forget the lyrics and the band behind him played instrumentals without any voice accompaniment. Unfazed, the President began to recite some poetic verses with the music in the background.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, meanwhile, perhaps owing to his relatively young age, sang a more current hit: “O Pare Ko” by the Eraserheads.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, with his baritone, belted Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” particularly relishing the lyrics, “Start spreading the news.”

But there wasn’t only singing. Duterte ballroom-danced with Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Lorraine Badoy. Roque danced with a presidential security aide.

For many of those at the party, it was a night to remember, not least because this was the first MPC Christmas party with Duterte. The President said he hopes to have such parties every year. –

Watch the video: 

Duterte tells media, 'I am not your enemy'

PARTY WITH MEDIA. Upon arriving at the MPC Christmas party, President Rodrigo Duterte goes around greeting his guests. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler 

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MANILA, Philippines – Is it because Christmas is in the air?

President Rodrigo Duterte, on Tuesday, December 12, departed from his usual threatening tone against the media by assuring them, he is not their enemy.


"I am not your enemy. Your quest for truth, that's your business, not mine. At the end of the day, it's not my property," he said during his speech at the Malacañang Press Corps Christmas party.He was addressing reporters and cameramen who cover Malacañang. The party took place at Heroes Hall inside the Palace.

Duterte, who has previously blasted the media for reporting on his alleged ill-gotten wealth, inquiring about his health, or writing supposedly slanted news about him, said he understands the "adversarial relationship" the media must take in relation to government.

"Never mind about our relationship, it's always adversarial. Your truth is not my truth and everybody's truth, so we fight with eachother," said the President.

Despite his harsh words against media – including threats not to renew the franchise of television network ABS-CBN, threats against the previous owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and claims that Rappler is funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency – Duterte insisted he has no beef against them.

"Wala naman tayong galit (We don't have anger). We do not fight with each other. I do not hate anybody here or else I will not be inviting you to my place," he said. 

Does this mean the President believes what media reports? It doesn't seem so as he spoke of multiple "truths" and how truth is a "contentious" word.

"But truth is something which is relevant but at the same time a very contentious word. Like I said, there are always two sides of the coin, my truth, your truth, and the public perception," said Duterte.

He wrapped up his message by saying, despite the "ruckus" between him and media, the protection of the public interest is paramount.

"It's just public interest foremost and I think, it's the only one, the only standard is public interest," said Duterte.

Despite his high-minded words, the President has made criticism of him and his administration risky business, with his penchant for making curse-laden rants and allegations against naysayers.

Rather than address the criticisms head on, Duterte has typically labelled them as merely being fuelled by politics.

His attacks against Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, both appointees of the previous administration, have been perceived as damaging to the checks and balance system provided by democracy.

He has also fired a government official for "contradicting" his 4-million figure for drug addicts, and another for questioning the wisdom of accepting a major drug rehabilitation center as a donation. –


#WalangPasok: Class suspensions, Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MANILA, Philippines – Here is a list of areas and schools where classes have been suspended for Wednesday, December 13, due to Tropical Depression Urduja.Camarines Sur - all levels, public and private

  • Albay - preschool to elementary, public and private

Not on the list? Help us crowdsource class suspensions by posting in the comments section or tweeting @rapplerdotcom.

For more information:When are classes cancelled or suspended? –


Duterte narco list now 6,000 names long and counting – PDEA

DRUG LIST. President Rodrigo Duterte shows his infamous narcolist. Malacanang photo 

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MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration's narcolist is already 6,000 names long and more will be added in the coming months.

This was first announced by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino on Monday, December 11.


"Every month may bagong listahan kami. Nagsimula nang 3,000 ngayon 6,000 plus na (Every month we have a new list. We started with 3,000, now we have 6,000 plus already)," Aquino said at the sidelines of a press conference.Pressed to confirm the figure, he said the figures he mentioned refer to the list used by President Rodrigo Duterte himself. "6000+ na ngayon sa (names are already in the) PRRD list," he told Rappler in a text message on Tuesday, December 12.

According to Aquino, the list consists of both government officials and civilians. It is unclear whether it coincides with local government drug lists, which are often cited in police reports when drug suspects are apprehended.

The last time the public heard of the narcolist was 4 months ago, when President Rodrigo Duterte announced in August that he had updated his infamous list.

It was first revealed in August 2016 with Duterte dropping around 150 names of judges, mayors, police officials for public scrutiny. By September 2016, the President claimed that they already had 1,000 names on their watch.

He was criticized for his disclosures, as many had pointed out that the list was not properly validated. (READ: The Duterte list: Judges, mayors, police officials linked to drugs)

Revalidation board formed

To address irregularities, Aquino said on Monday that they have put together an "adjudication board" with the Philippine National Police (PNP), taking it upon themselves to try to "revalidate" its the names.

"It's just a validation ng lahat ng listahan kay Presidente... So 'yung adjudication process will determine kung ikaw ba ay made-delist o hindi," he said on Monday.

(It is just a validation of all lists with the President... So the adjudication process will determine weather you will be delisted or not.)

They will proceed with the revalidation, Aquino said, by asking the PNP to check once more all the names in Duterte's present list, before sending them back up to Malacañang. He mentioned that they also want that cops state the level of involvement of each name on the list. (READ: Duterte: 'Final validation' of new drug list done)

"Kung involved ka eh gaano ka ba ka-involved? At ano ba ang involvement mo? Ikaw ba ay user, pusher, drug lord, protector gano'n (If you are involved, how involved are you?Are you a user, pusher, a drug lord, or protector?)," he said.

From there, the President will decide with his own office's intel whether persons that the PNP and the PDEA will recommend should be taken out of the list.

"The only one who could delist that is the President," Aquino said.

Aquino said they could not promise a deadline for the revalidation, as it is a "difficult task". –


Garin ‘ignored’ experts’ advice on Dengvaxia; no testing done to find out if children had dengue before vaccination

File photos of Dengvaxia vaccine (from Reuters) and former DOH chief Janette Garin (from Philstar)
MANILA, Philippines — As she announced in January 2016 that the Philippines would immunize one million children with a new dengue vaccine, the nation’s then health secretary Janette Garin boasted it was a world-first and a tribute to her country’s “expertise” in research.

At the time, it seemed the Philippines could be on the cusp of a breakthrough to combat a potentially lethal tropical virus that had been endemic in large parts of the Southeast Asian nation for decades.

Almost two years later, the program lies in tatters and has been suspended after Sanofi Pasteur, a division of French drug firm Sanofi, said at the end of last month the vaccine itself may in some cases increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients not previously infected by the virus.

Documents reviewed by Reuters that have not been disclosed until now, as well as interviews with local experts, show that key recommendations made by a Philippines Department of Health (DOH) advisory body of doctors and pharmacologists were not heeded before the program was rolled out to 830,000 children.

After Garin’s announcement, the Formulary Executive Council (FEC) of advisers urged caution over the vaccine because it said its safety and cost-effectiveness had not been established.

After twice meeting in January, the panel approved the state’s purchase of the vaccine on Feb 1, 2016 but recommended stringent conditions, minutes of all three meetings show.

“Based on the available scientific evidence presented to the Council, there is still a need to establish long-term safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness,” the FEC told Garin in a letter on that day. The letter was reviewed by Reuters.

The FEC said Dengvaxia should be introduced through small-scale pilot tests and phased implementation rather than across three regions in the country at the same time, and only after a detailed “baseline” study of the prevalence and strains of dengue in the targeted area, the FEC letter and minutes of the meetings said.

The experts also recommended that Dengvaxia be bought in small batches so the price could be negotiated down. An economic evaluation report commissioned by Garin’s own department had found the proposed cost of 1,000 pesos ($21.29) per dose was “not cost-effective” from a public payer perspective, the minutes from the meetings reveal.

For reasons that Reuters was unable to determine, these recommendations were ignored.


The DOH purchased 3 million doses of Dengvaxia in one lot, enough for the required three vaccinations for each child in the proposed immunization program and paid 1,000 pesos per dose, a copy of the purchase order reviewed by Reuters shows.

It did conduct a “limited baseline study” in late February and March 2016, but the survey looked at “common illnesses” rather than the prevalence of dengue, according to guidelines issued by Garin’s office at the time and reviewed by Reuters.

Garin, who was part of the government of former president Benigno Aquino and replaced when President Rodrigo Duterte took power in June, 2016, did not respond to requests for comment on why she ignored the local experts’ recommendations.

A physician, Garin has defended her conduct and a program that she said was “implemented in accordance with WHO guidance and recommendations”.

“I understand the concern,” she told Philippine TV station ABS-CBN on Friday. “Even us, we’re also very angry when we learned about Sanofi’s announcement about severe dengue. I‘m also a mother. My child was also vaccinated. I was also vaccinated.”

DOH spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy also did not respond to text messages or questions emailed to him.

Sanofi Philippines declined comment on the Philippines government decision. However, Dr. Su-Peing Ng, Global Medical Head of Sanofi Pasteur, told Reuters: “We communicated all known benefits and risks of the vaccine to the Philippines government.”

Rontgene Solante, former president of the Philippines Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said health officials were motivated to end the debilitating impact of dengue on the Philippines, where there are about 200,000 reported cases each year and many more unreported.

Over 1,000 people died of the disease in the country last year.

Two months after the FEC wrote to the health secretary, the DOH began immunizing one million students around the age of 10 in all three target areas in April 2016, in accordance with its original plan but at odds with the FEC’s recommendations to conduct a slow roll-out of the vaccine.

“The usual process for the DOH that has protected our children for so many decades was not followed. That’s a fact,” said Susan Mercado, a former Philippines health department undersecretary and former senior official at the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO said in April 2016 that the Philippines’ campaign appeared to meet its criteria for using Dengvaxia because the targeted regions had high levels of dengue exposure; the vaccine would be provided to children 9 years and older; and they would each receive three doses.

Now, after Sanofi’s warnings, WHO has said it agrees with the government’s decision to suspend the immunization program.


The current secretary of health in the Duterte administration, Francisco Duque, said he would carry out a “thorough analysis” of the FEC’s recommendations and the program before passing judgment. He said the Council’s recommendations were not legally enforceable.

“At the end of the day, the final decision is made by (the)secretary of health,” he told Reuters. “But because of the expertise that the members of the FEC have, it is something that you don’t want to ignore.”

Underpinning the concerns in 2016 about Dengvaxia, since confirmed by Sanofi, were fears that the vaccine would act like a primary infection for those who had never had dengue.

If they were bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus after the vaccination, it could be akin to getting dengue a second time, which often leads to far more severe symptoms and potentially death if bad cases are not treated quickly.

The concerns were first raised by noted U.S.-based tropical disease expert, Dr. Scott Halstead, who urged both Sanofi and the WHO to proceed with caution.

In the Philippines, Dr. Antonio Gans, an epidemiologist from the University of the Philippines, led a delegation of physicians to the DOH in March 2016 where, citing Halstead’s research, they pressed for the campaign to be aborted.

“The data was not definitive but it was clear there were uncertainties and risks. Why not wait for the complete studies to be finished before endangering so many children?” Gans told Reuters.

In a Senate hearing late last year, Garin said she was aware of Halstead’s assessment but dismissed it. “This is a theory … it has not been proven,” she said at the time.


Two sources involved in the program said no antibody testing was undertaken, as recommended by the FEC.

Antibody testing, while not 100 percent accurate, indicates whether an individual has had dengue before.

Duque, the current health secretary, is demanding the company refund the 3 billion pesos ($60 million) paid for the vaccinations and has threatened legal action against Sanofi if it is proven to have withheld information.

A criminal probe is underway into how a danger to public health came about and two Congressional inquiries have been convened in the Philippines.

Duque told Reuters he was concerned that the program was paid from an “off-budget” allocation, meaning it bypassed Congressional scrutiny. Reuters was unable to confirm this.

Until now, one child out of the 830,000 vaccinated, a girl who was hospitalized with severe dengue, has been linked definitively by the DOH to the campaign. But the department of health says it still does not have complete data on those who fell ill after taking Dengvaxia.


Kiko hits Duterte gov’t’s move to appoint as PNP drugs chief the ex-head of police unit linked to Jee Ick Joo slay

Philstar file photo of Sen. Francis Pangilinan
MANILA, Philippines — Warning that promotion instead of charges would lead to more abuses by law enforcers, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan last Sunday criticized the Duterte administration’s move to appoint Senior Supt. Albert Ignatius Ferro — the former head of a police unit being linked to the abduction and slay of a South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo — as new chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Drug Enforcement Group (DEG).

“Lalo lang lalakas ang loob ng pulis na gumawa ng hindi tama at abusuhin ang pwesto dahil promotion sa halip na parusa ang naghihintay sa kanila [This would all the more embolden the police to commit wrongdoings and abuse their positions because promotion, instead of punishment, await them,] Pangilinan, Liberal Party president, said in a statement.

The PNP announced Ferro’s appointment last Saturday, three days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced the drug war’s return to the police.

Ferro is the former head of the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Group that was dissolved last year after police officers under the ADG were accused of allegedly having a hand in the October 2016 kidnapping of Korean Hanjin executive Jee Ick Joo under the guise of a drug operation.

Jee was later killed inside the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City. His remains were cremated with his ashes reportedly flushed down the toilet.

“Si Ferro lang ba ang tauhan ng PNP na may kakayahang mamuno sa DEG at siya ang pinili? Mas marami naman siguro diyan na walang bahid ang pangalan at mas karapat-dapat na mamuno sa nasabing unit,” said Pangilinan.

[Is Ferro the only PNP law enforcer who has the capability to lead the DEG and that’s why he was the one chosen? Maybe there are still many others whose names remain untarnished and are more qualified to lead the said unit.]

He said the PNP “should be more circumspect in assigning their personnel, especially in sensitive and controversial posts like the DEG, as it could further place the government’s campaign against illegal drugs in a negative light.”

“How can the people trust the PNP’s campaign against illegal drugs if those people spearheading it are involved in controversy, like the Jee Ick Joo case, which remains unsolved until now and the victim’s family is still crying for justice?” Pangilinan asked.

“If the PNP wants to regain the people’s trust, then it should appoint officials with unblemished reputations in its war against drugs,” he added.


4 current, ex-SC justices attend House hearing on Sereno impeach raps

File photos of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Supreme Court justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Francis Jardeleza, and Noel Tijam and former SC justice Arturop Brion
MANILA, Philippines — Four magistrates of the Supreme Court, including a former associate justice appeared at the House of Representatives on Monday, December 11, during the resumption of the hearing on the impeachment complaint against their colleague, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Noel Tijam and Francis Jardeleza and former Associate Justice Arturo Brion will testify on various acts allegedly committed by Sereno constituting culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and other high crimes.

Sereno has been invited anew to attend the proceedings, but chose not to show up. Her lawyers, in a letter to the House Committee on Justice dated December 8, said the chief magistrate “declines the committee invitation” and would just monitor the proceedings.

The complaint, filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, alleged that Sereno committed 27 acts that merit her impeachment.


Senate, House likely to hold joint session before Xmas break for Duterte’s martial law request – Fariñas

Reuters file photo of President Rodrigo Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — Before lawmakers take their Christmas break, the Senate and the House of Representatives are likely to conduct a joint session to deliberate on President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao.

In a text message on Monday, December 11, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said that the congressional session “officially end on on Friday, Dec 15; hence, we may have a joint session on Thursday (Dec. 14) or Friday (Dec. 15) as part of the 2nd Regular Session, without need of a special session.”

Where is actual invasion, rebellion in Mindanao?

But opposition lawmaker, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman rejected Duterte’s request for Congress to extend martial law in Southern Philippines for one more year.

“Where is the actual invasion or actual rebellion in Mindanao? The Constitution provides that martial law can only be declared and its extension authorized in case of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it,” Lagman said in a statement issued Monday.

He said another year of martial law in Mindanao would amount to the following:

1) Patent violation of the safeguards which the 1987 Constitution imposes for the limited grounds and duration of martial law and its extension;

2) Malevolent perpetuation of the subjugation of the supermajority in the Congress by the President even against the unequivocal provisions of the Constitution protecting civil liberties and the rule of law; and

3) Blatant mockery of the liberality of the majority of the Supreme Court in upholding the President’s past questionable actions

“Since the original or initiatory declaration of martial law is limited to not more than 60 days, it stands to reason that any extension is subject to the same constraints with respect to duration and grounds,” the lawmaker said.

“There is no more factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao after President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City from rebels and terrorists almost two months ago, and government combat forces had been withdrawn,” added Lagman.

The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines recommended the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year purportedly to contain continuing threats by terrorists. But Lagman said “this is not a constitutional ground because threat or imminent danger of an invasion or rebellion has been removed as a ground for martial law in the 1987 Constitution for being self-serving, contingent and even nebulous.”

“It is even arguable that not more than one extension is allowed because a series of extensions would violate the constitutional intent for a limited martial law duration, and the phraseology of the Constitution only authorizes the extension of “such proclamation” (original declaration), but not any extension thereof,” he explained.

Instead of extending martial law, Duterte should “call the armed forces to subdue lawless violence or declare martial law anew but limited by constitutional restraints and subject to the oversight powers of the Congress and the Supreme Court,” according to Lagman.

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